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Bees & Honey

  • A you beaut, Australian made, <$40 (including metro delivery) corporate gift... that won't be put in the drawer

    The last time I moved I took an enormous bag full of unused gifts from various past employers to Vinnies.  Along with the 20 odd t-shirts and 11 caps were 2 (shoddily made) picnic hamper sets, 5 umbrella's, (I kept another 4 - although why I really have no idea as I haven't used any of them in 6 years), about 9 stress balls (what message does THAT send?!!), 4 plastic insulated coffee cups, a vinyl/faux leather notebook cover and desk set, 5 completely useless branded backpacks and about 15 plastic water bottles.  [What didn't make it were the various bottles of wine which I had consumed having long since forgotten who they were from and the olive tapenade and stale crackers never eaten!]

    I know I had cupboards full of what was essentially landfill but I felt too guilty to send it there given the consumption of precious resources taken to make it.  Sadly when I got to Vinnies they told me that they would throw the vast majority of it away as they were inundated with it.

    So, why then write a post about more "stuff".  Well because we're heading into giving season and if you're going to give stuff then it would be remiss of me not to tell you about gifts that are useful, beautiful and sustainable.  A gift that keeps on giving - to our farmers & beekeepers, to the jobs it creates at our hive, to our local packaging manufacturers and suppliers.  A gift that recognises that your staff work hard and they also need to relax hard.

    A few months ago we were tasked by long term client, Buzz Strategic Concepts, to put together a little 'just because' gift for their clients.  Not for Christmas.  Not for any particular reason.  Just a random act of kindness and gratitude gift.  They sent us personalised cards to go with each gift and we did all the logistics for them.  Bravo!

    Sustainable, australian made corporate gift

     

    And to make sure the gift went the extra mile, we put their brand on the candle - subtle but effective.  Every time their client looks at or fires up this little beauty (and if you know your Queen B candles you'll know that that will be a whole lot of times over a whole long period of time!) lovely, sweet, positive, appreciative thoughts flying your way!

    logo corporate gift, australian made, sustainble, eco, hamper

     

    Of course we also do larger gifts and hampers

    corporate gift hamper, australian made, eco sustainable gift

     

     

    And we do smaller gifts too... this one coming in under $15.

    meaningful corporate gift, sustainable, eco

     

    If you're looking for ideas, send us an email or give us a buzz, we'd be only too happy to help you out.

    Cate xx

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  • My recent visit to Dom Perignon

    You may have noticed I've been a little quiet of late... I was busy living one of my dreams!

    As someone who is passionate about taking the best of what nature has to offer and then perfecting the craft of utilising it, I have long been a fan of Dom Perignon.  In this day and age of mechanisation and the mass production of everything, I love it on that rare occasion where tradition (and the recognition that often hand made is simply better) prevails - and Dom Perignon is one of those rare examples... the grapes picked by hand.  The bottles riddled by hand.

    You may recall, because I blogged about it here, that a couple of years ago I did a light sculpture for Dom Perignon at Vue de Monde.  Researching for the sculpture I was fascinated by the long history of monks keeping bees with Dom Pierre Perignon a monk of the Benedictine order (DOM = Deus Optimus Maximus - the highest 'rank' of monk) and their history with making beeswax candles.  The sculpture itself is not a candle but utilises the translucent beauty of beeswax whilst celebrating the iconic Dom Perignon bottle.

    Anyway, finally this year I fulfilled my dream of visiting the abbey where Dom Perignon lived (and the caves where Dom Perignon is now made and matured).  As it turns out, Rocco (Wine Director at Vue de Monde) told them I was someone important and I was given the royal, VIP treatment.  A more worthy person would just take in their stride... I kept on pinching myself!

    Wanting to share it, I felt that the images alone were too static and didn't do it justice, so I put this little something together... escape to the Champagne region in France even if it is only for a couple of minutes.  Goodness knows I've relived it many times in the past few weeks.

    Cate xx

     

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  • Judging Beeswax Candles at the Sydney Royal Show / National Honey Show

    This year I was invited to be the head judge for the beeswax candles and beeswax classes at the Sydney Royal Show (aka The Easter Show and The National Honey Show).  I know people bang on about things being a privilege, but it really did feel like a privilege to be doing work on behalf of the Royal Agricultural Society.  The Easter Show is an incredible institution and if you ignore the rides and show bags, it is such an important educational activity.  I was just thrilled to be doing my bit.

    Interestingly beeswax and beeswax candle entries have increased exponentially since Queen B started putting entries in about 8 years ago.  It's wonderful to see.  Given our haul of ribbons each year, I think they figured they should use my skills as a judge and allow some other people to win.

    The main purpose of this post is for all of our Steiner / Montessori / creative parents & other creative souls.  Did you know that in 2014 it only cost $8 to put an entry into the National Honey Show competition?  Perhaps my favourite class for schools / kids is the decorated candle class.  It is also relatively simple to roll a taper candle.  Entries usually open in January and close in February (i.e. it's a busy time of year).  So, why not put in your diary for late January 2015 to go to the Sydney Royal website and why not put a candle into the competition?  You'll be supporting the Royal Agricultural Society and having fun at the same time.  All entries are displayed.

    Here are a few of my photographs from the judging and the show...

    National Honey Show judge at Sydney Royal Show

    National Honey Show beeswax candle entries at Sydney Royal Show

    Sydney Royal Show burning rolled pillar candles

    National Honey Show decorated beeswax candles

    National Honey Show solid beeswax pillar candles over 3cm

    Sydney Royal Showcase of National Honey Show beeswax candle entries

    Championship beeswax and beeswax candle winners at Sydney Royal Show

    National Honey show winners for solid beeswax pillar candles

    Championship beeswax candle winner at Sydney Royal Show

    Winners are Grinners at the National Honey Show

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  • The perfect little gift - the gift of Sweetness & Light

    One of our greatest challenges has always been to create beautiful gifts for the ≤ $15.00 price point... something that packs a powerful gift punch without putting too much of a strain on your wallet.  It's the perfect sustainable corporate staff or client gift.  And (without wanting to appear to have tickets on our hive), I think we've nailed it!  I am deliriously excited to announce our newest product in the Queen B range... Sweetness & Light.

     

    Sweetness and Light - sustainable australian made corporate gift idea Sweetness & Light - the perfect, sustainable, Australian made little gift

    Each box contains 2 x Jam Jar Tealights + 1 jar of Australian honey (our current batch is yellow box honey).

    rosh hashana, corporate sustainable eco gift idea, queen b pure beeswax candles I know it's not polite to blow one's own trumpet, but seriously, how gorgeous is this packaging? (or do I just need to get our more?)... it's 100% recycled Australian card, printed with soy ink and printed in Australia

    This is the perfect little gift to say:
    thanks
    I'm thinking of you
    happy house warming
    you're a wonderful hostess
    I'm sorry
    I think I'm meant to be sorry
    I love you
    I like you lots
    bomboniere
    I just want to seduce you
    happy barmitzvah / batmitzvah
    you're a great friend
    you're doing a great job
    here, have a little time for you
    we're having an eco wedding
    I've got you what everyone wants for a kris kringle

    queen b beeswax candles and honey for eco gift wedding idea or bombonniere Sweetness and Light - beautiful no matter what angle you look at it from!

    For 24 hours only (ie for our most engaged followers) for every 4 Sweetness & Lights you order, we'll send you a 5th one for free.  Offer expires 12.30pm 6th November 2013. To qualify you must write "Thank goodness for bees" in the comments field!  Not on an email later.  Not when you get your order.  Not over the phone.  You must write it in the comments field when you order!!

    PS If you work in a business, can you also please tell your boss about this amazing little gift!

    Thanks

    Cate xx

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  • A beeswax candle is a natural ioniser

    Somewhere, and I have no idea where, I have a reference for the scientific literature upon which this claim is based.  When I first put a website up for Queen B (which is over a decade ago now) every single claim and statement was fact checked be me.  Those fact checking references were duly recorded somewhere clever about 7 laptop computers ago and for the life of me I can't find where it is.  And, if you google it, you really just find lots of beeswax candle website all making the same claims and all quoting one another or, quoting some random health blog with zero scientific validity.

    The question was put to me again recently by a couple of asthma sufferers (air quality in Sydney has been badly affected by the bush fires with particulate matter levels 1,000 times over the 'safe' limit).  All I had to offer in the absence of those elusive links to the actual research are photographs that I've taken of my candles at home because I find it so fascinating (as an aside, yes I probably do need to get a life)

    The theory goes like this: dust, pollen, pollution, viruses, smoke, germs, aromas etc are all positively charged ions that float in the air (because they are lighter than air).  A beeswax candle when it is burning emits negative ions (as does a waterfall, or those ionisers that you plug into a wall or himalayan salt crystal lamps are also said to, but I haven't done that research).  The negative ions emitted by the candle attach to the positive ions floating in the air and that forms an atom which is heavier than air and thus drops to the ground or, if it is close enough to the candle, is drawn into the pool of wax.

    I personally think that a picture speaks a thousand words so here are just a few from my candles that I burn at home.

    when burning a Queen B pure beeswax candle is a natural ioniser A beeswax candle is a natural ioniser - the proof is in the wax pool
    purify the air you breathe by burning Queen B pure beeswax candles Another glimpse at the air borne dirt pulled out of my living environment and into the pool of beeswax
    The negative ions emitted by a pure beewax candle draw air borne dirt into the wax pool The negative ions emitted by a pure bee wax candle draw air borne dirt into the wax pool

    Which brings me to my final point which is about the candle care.  Depending on how much particulate matter is in the air where you live (and it tends to be high if you live near main roads or if you live near building works or even if you live next to bushland) there can be quite a bit of dirt in the pool of wax and this can affect how your candle burns.  A couple of things to note:

    1. Sometimes the top of the wick will look "dead" (see photograph below)... that is where the dirt is trapped and that is why we always say that you MUST trim the wick of your candle whenever you go to relight it.  It is trimming off the 'dead' part of the wick.  Lock that one into your memory bank... it's critical.
    2. Sometimes the dirt may gather around the base of the wick and when you go to relight your candle you will have trouble relighting it.  This is a basic physics problem - if the dirt is stopping the wick from drawing the wax (it's fuel source) then the candle won't light properly and will go out.  The solution: when you light the candle, hold the flame of the lighter or the match to the base of the wick until you can see that the wax changes colour and starts to melt... that shifts the dirt clogging the wick and allows the wick to draw fuel.Beeswax candles are exceptionally clever, the candle will work it out from that point on, you just need to give it it's fuel source.  I generally don't suggest tipping out the wax (because you're tipping out hours of candlelight)... the candle will work it out.

    In the photo below you can see both the 'dead' top of the wick and the dirt gathered at the base of the wick.

    purify the air you breathe with a pure beeswax candle A beeswax candle is a natural ioniser when lit - note the 'dead' tip of the wick (where dust is gathered) and the dirt at the base of the wick in the pool of wax

    Yours in pursuit of clean air and nature's finest light,

    Cate xx

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  • Now my bees are media tarts

    It's been an amazing few weeks for the girls.  Content just to forage, pollinate and collect nectar and pollen they've stepped up their game playing host to media keen to see inside their home and the inner workings of their urban hive... and all without stinging a single visitor!

    Our girls have been hard at work making honey for TEDx Sydney and the amazing crowd-farmed food which fed the 2,200 attendees.  This incredible initiative was  put together by TEDxSydney Food Curator, Jill Dupleix, in collaboration with Jess Miller from Goody Two Shoes and Grow It Local, and the team at ARIA Catering. We were chuffed to be a part of it (and so delighted with how the girls rose to the occasion).

    First up, a video put together by Tim Brunero showing the actual harvest of the TEDx Sydney honey.  What I particularly loved was that at the start Tim was fully suited and within 10 minutes he had his veil off and hand in the hive tasting the honey... not to mention having a go with the uncapping knife (& tasting more honey), spinning (tasting more honey) and offloading the honey (with a little more tasting).  In the final frames he is crouched in front of the hive like a pro - 120,000 bees in boxes beside him and he, happy as Larry, a foot away.  His childlike enthusiasm and delight seeing inside the hive, watching the bees and tasting their wares reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw in a beehive.  It truly is wonderous.

     

    So enchanted was Tim with the whole experience that he invited me in to the ABC do an interview
    [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/88819236" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

     

    You can see the TEDxSydney crowd-farmed food video below

    Clearly my neighbours don't read my blog or watch TEDxSydney videos because I haven't had a knock on the door yet!  When/if they do, they'll be rewarded with a jar of Neutral Bay's finest honey (the taste is enough to silence any critics).

    Lovely to be part of this community of urban growers... and proud of the hard work of the girls and their media savvy performance!

    Cate xx

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  • An antidote to stress

    an·ti·dote  (nt-dtn. A remedy or other agent used to neutralize or counteract the effects of a poison.

    Trying to effect change is stressful.  Stress is poison.  I was aware of this when I was completely stressed about the Australia Post 'thing', but with change not happening, I just couldn't seem to snap out of it.

    Sometimes, without my even controlling it (!!), life just happens perfectly.

    Enter stage right: Joost, plant wall, soil, a climbing frame and things to grow.
    Exit stage left: stress

    Perfect.  Here are a few photographs of Joost's plant wall at Miele HQ in Frenchs Forest.  I played Best Gardener in a Supporting Role.  Drill Grip.  Gaffer (tape holder).  And headed up Catering.

    Joost plant wall herb garden urban veggie growing


    IMG_3465

     

    Joost Plant Wall for Miele

     

    And then we (OK, he) tarted up my balcony with the left over plants... adding to the eggplants, tumeric, kale and lettuce already growing!

    Tarting up my balcony

    The girls are delirious.

    urban beehive bees in the city

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  • Creating a bee beard... at the Royal Easter Show

    Each year the NSW Apiarists Association has a stand at Sydney's Royal Easter Show.  It is the single biggest fund raising initiative annually and the funds raised keep the association going.  Staffed entirely by volunteers, most of whom are beekeepers with a wealth of knowledge and experience, it is a great educational initiative. [There are also a few of us with very little beekeeping experience but a bucket load of passion for bees!]

    The goal of Honeyland is to educate people about bees and honey.  It sits alongside the entries for the National Honey Show showcasing honey, beeswax, beeswax candles, bee pollen, frames of honeycomb, mead and all manner of other bee-created goodness.

    Whilst we all like to eat fruit and veggies, and most of us like to eat honey, our bee sisters have suffered for many years with a bad reputation.  Like most people, insects and animals, honeybees have a mechanism for communicating their displeasure if they feel like they are under attack... they sting.  Much like you or I may shout or lash out if someone trod on us, a honeybee will sting when they feel threatened.  Thankfully European honeybees don't generally attack if they're not provoked and most people aren't even aware of their work in our gardens and parks every day.  They are absolutely necessary if we want to live in a green city. Recognising this, a few years ago the NSWAA established a "Bee-Zeebo" to do live bee demonstrations to educate people about bees and honey.

    Live bee demonstration in the Bee-zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show) Live bee demonstration in the Bee-zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show)

    One of the primary educators is Bees In The City's very own bee whisperer, Bruce White OAM.  Like watching or listening to anyone who is extremely skilled in their chosen profession, watching and listening to Bruce is mesmerising... particularly if you're interested in bees!

    Bees In The City, Bruce White - Bee Whisperer My fabulous business partner for Bees In The City, Bruce White

    This year, for the first time, a beekeeper, Craig Klingner, demonstrated a bee beard.  To make a bee beard, the queen bee is put in a 'queen cage' (with a few attendants) and hung around the beekeepers neck.  Her progeny (worker bees) are then let out of the hive where they will climb up the beekeepers and gather around their queen.  With over 10,000 worker bees clustered around his neck and face it was a great demonstration of the safety of working with bees (if you know what you're doing) and their in built mechanism to gather around their queen (much like you see when there is a swarm).

    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)
    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Sydney Royal Easter Show Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)
    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Sydney Royal Easter Show Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)

     

    Oh, and did I mention that our 45cm dipper beeswax taper candles won first prize?!  Happy days.  We don't have them available online because we can't find a box suitable to ship them in (any box that long is as wide and high and thus we get killed on postage), but they are available at the hive and some of our lovely retailers.

    Queen B Pure beeswax taper candle first prize Sydney Royal Easter Show Did I mention that our 45cm tapers won first prize?! :-)

    Next time you're at the Easter Show, remember to pop into Honeyland to taste the honey's for sale and support the NSW Apiarists Association and the beekeepers that keep us nourished (and naturally sweetened)!

    Cate xx

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  • That's enough about me... what do you think of me?

    OK, so this post borders on narcissism, BUT anyone who makes a product will tell you that there is nothing like the thrill you get when you see it loved in someone's home.  And so, a few photographs that I snapped when I was staying with Joost & Jen (+ girls, dog, chooks & bees)...

    Bee Bottles, Vases & Jars
    Bee Bust & other assorted Queen B goodies
    Broken bottles from Dom installation & Queen B reversible candleholders
    Joost's beehives... pollinating his 9 acres of flowers & veggie patch
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  • So what exactly is beeswax?

    We've had quite a few kids into the hive recently which gives me the occasion to wax lyrical about all things honeybees, beeswax and honey.

    The thing that usually has the most misconceptions surrounding it is what beeswax is exactly.  So, here are a few things you may not have known about beeswax...

    1. Beeswax is produced by wax glands on the underside of the abdomen of a bee.  It is clear liquid when exuded and becomes wax upon contact with air.
      Bees' wax glands

      Bees'

    2. Worker bees are usually allocated to wax production between 12 - 18 days of age! (is there something there for Gen Y perhaps?!)  The bees collect the wax with their legs and then chew it to soften it and make it malleable (to make the honeycomb structure in which they store flower nectar to ripen into honey.
    3. Beeswax is clear/white when exuded.  Discolouration occurs when the wax is stained by honey, pollen, propolis (or by beekeepers overheating the wax).  To read more about why Queen B candles are so light in colour, read our blog post on Why The White Wax Queenie?
    4. A bee makes around 10 nectar gathering trips per day (and can carry 25 - 5- milligram's of water or nectar per trip).  Flower nectar is simply 'unripened' honey.  It takes 82kgs of nectar (ie around 165,000 trips) to make 1kg of honey.  In the course of those 165,000 trips, worker bees will fly around 4 million kms' (100 times around earth).
    5. Bees consume a lot of energy in the production of wax using around 8 - 10kgs of honey to produce 1kg of wax.

    This is some of the unspoken magic in every Queen B candle.  There is literally thousands of hours of bee flight and the work of thousands of honey bees in every single candle.  Don't get me wrong, bees like to work hard.  It's in their DNA.  They are born and literally start working immediately.  It is quite something to observe.  However it is still lovely to acknowledge that as you enjoy the beautiful golden light of your Queen B candle.

    Of course, after all that hard work by our bee sisters, we treat our beeswax like gold at Queen B.  It is thoroughly washed, settled and filtered over 48 hours to remove any impurities (like pollen, propolis or dust) all of which have a massive impact on how a beeswax candle burns.  Having clean, unadulterated beeswax is just as important as finding the right wick in creating Queen B candles.

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